The BMJ Today: It’s time for the Oscars of medicine

Tiago_VillanuevaToday The BMJ hosts its annual BMJ Awards ceremony at the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster, London. If you’ve never heard of the BMJ Awards, see it as a kind of Oscars of medicine. They’re the UK’s premier medical awards programme, and their goal is to acknowledge and celebrate the inspiring work done by doctors and their teams in the UK across different fields and specialties of medicine. This year marks the sixth edition of the Awards, and there are 12 Awards up for grabs that will be announced tonight, plus a Lifetime Achievement Award.

One of the Awards pertains to the UK Research Paper category. A lot of importance these days is given to the impact research papers have in social networks. In other words, this means how many tweets, Facebook likes and posts, mentions in blogs and news outlets, etc, papers get, and Altmetrics is the big umbrella buzzword that encompasses it all.

In a recent blog, David Colquhoun and Andrew Plested play down the importance of Altmetrics. They give the example of a paper that was highly mentioned on Twitter, even though the study’s findings seem to have been inflated by tweeters. They concluded that Altmetrics are “numbers generated by people who don’t understand research, for people who don’t understand research.” They add that “people who read papers and understand research just don’t need them and should shun them.” Just in case you were wondering, and it’s likely that if you’re reading this you’re someone who reads papers and understands research, I can tell you that Altmetrics was not a judging criteria for the UK Research paper Award.

Many other awards are aimed at rewarding UK based medical teams that have gone the extra mile for their patients. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is aimed at improving health outcomes for people in the UK, but Arthy Santhakumar reminds us in another blog that doing so should not come at the cost of jeopardizing workers’ health across the supply chains of equipment used in the NHS. This equipment used by the NHS is often manufactured in developing countries like Pakistan, where the average labourer will work 12 hours, seven days a week, and earn in a day what it takes a doctor in the UK just a few minutes to earn, apart from being continuously exposed to serious occupational risks like poor electrical wiring and toxic and corrosive chemicals. We should all be aware of this complex problem and take Arthy’s suggestion to call for “ethical procurement.”

Managing the health budget of China, a small American town of 4300 people in the state of Maine, may not sound as daunting as managing the NHS—the public healthcare system of a country of over 63 million people and the world’s fifth largest employer. But what do you do when the healthcare spending in the last 10 years in China, Maine, increased by 152% while the budget only increased by 27%? Rosemary Gibson argues in a recent Feature article that states and local governments in the United States are making financial trade-offs as healthcare spending takes an increasing share of their budgets.

If healthcare spending is increasing, should you therefore cut on road maintenance? Should you cut on education? Or should you cut on fire fighting? These are all very difficult decisions. At the BMJ Awards tonight we will celebrate the career achievements of individuals and teams who make difficult decisions everyday to help their patients to the very best of their ability, and who are well aware that improving healthcare is difficult and requires courage.

Tiago Villanueva is The BMJ’s editorial registrar.